Back in October 2009 a little free-to-play game called League Of Legends was released to the public. Now, almost fours years later, LoL is the most played game in the world, with over twelve million active players every day. So what is this game and why is it putting series like Halo and Call Of Duty to shame?
LoL is a ‘multiplayer online battle arena’ or ‘MOBA’, a fairly new (but very quickly growing) genre of games, the first of which was the original DotA, which begun life as a mod for Warcraft 3. There are several game modes but the standard game sees two teams of five ‘champions’ battle it out on a large, three-laned map. Along each of these lanes (and in both directions) travel a constant stream of ‘minions’ which if left alone would just spend the entire game killing each other without moving along the lane; this is where you come in. Killing minions earns you both XP and gold, XP obviously levels you up while gold can be spent on items which improve your stats and sometimes grant unique abilities. With your help, your minions will overpower the opposition wave and move up the lane.
Each lane is protected by three towers which will attack both you and your minions if you get too close, these protect the opponent’s base and the structures which lie within it: the three inhibitors and the nexus. It’s both team’s goal to make their way up the lanes, killing the champions on the other team, destroying their turrets, inhibitors and finally the nexus.
The player has a choice of over one hundred champions to choose from, each with different playstyles, abilities and roles. This is what makes LoL such an incredibly complex game, but it also makes it quite a daunting experience at first.
My favourite champion: Thresh.
Unfortunately, Summoner’s Rift is not always the most welcoming place for new players. Initially you’ll be playing alongside human teammates against a team of AI bots, but once you make your way into normal games the community becomes incredibly toxic. And because LoL has such a steep learning curve, you’re not going to be brilliant from the get go. Therefore new players should go into games prepared for being called a ‘f****** noob’ or having someone on his team ask everyone else to ‘report him for feeding’. It can really put you off playing and I think that’s really sad. Once you reach higher levels of play things do improve, but not that much. I’m level 30 (the highest) and still encounter this sort of thing everyday. I believe DotA 2 has similar problems, so perhaps it’s just an inherent thing with this genre of games.
LoL is a game best played with friends, not least because it provides a solution to the problem above. I’ve got some great memories from times spent playing while chatting over Skype: amazing comebacks, great teamwork, incredible pieces of individual skill and spectacular fails (although many of these were committed by me). It’s great fun and sitting down for an evening spent playing with my team is something I look forward to nearly everyday.
And while I’m on the topic of playing everyday, LoL is an incredibly addictive game. It has come very close to ruining the rest of my gaming life, most of the time I just don’t want to play anything else. At first you’ll be working your way up to level thirty, once you hit that ranked games are unlocked. Then you’ll be working your way up through the divisions (of which there are six: Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum, Diamond and Challenger) and reaching higher standards of play. When I’m not playing LoL, I’m watching people play LoL. Pros live stream their games and skilled players post commentaries and tips on YouTube. Then there’s the LCS, the professional league. This is played in several ‘splits’ throughout the year where teams compete to earn a place in the world championships. This season’s world championship starts next week and I can’t wait. Proceed with caution, this game may well take over your life.
LoL’s business model is in my opinion, along with DotA 2, the best use of free-to-play I’ve seen in a game and makes those used in games such as Candy Crush Saga seem laughable. The game is completely free to download and play but each champion is initially locked. These can be unlocked in two ways, by spending influence points (or IP, which you earn with each game you play) or by purchasing Riot Points (RP). Prices of champions vary from 450 IP up to 6300 IP and while saving up for one of the more expensive champions can take a little time, it’s very satisfying when you finally unlock them. Additionally, ten champions are available to play for free and this is rotated between all the different champions each week, giving you an opportunity to give one a go before you hand over your precious IP.
As well as being spent on the champions themselves, Riot Points can also be used to purchase skins for champions too. You may ask why would anyone spend actual money on something that’s merely a cosmetic change within a game. But why not? Why wouldn’t someone spend money on their favourite game (which they haven’t handed over any cash to play) to get a skin for one of their favourite characters? So far I’ve bought two skins, and I very much doubt that they’ll be the last.
The game is constantly being updated, which keeps the experience feeling fresh: new champions and skins are introduced regularly and patches tweak the game’s balance by either nerfing or buffing champions and items.
In my opinion, League of Legends is a game that everyone needs to try. A certain degree of self-control is necessary once it gets its hooks in you, otherwise it may well take over your life. I will often go to sleep at night thinking about LoL and it’ll be my first thought when I wake up. As with everything, it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but there’s a good chance that you might just love it. And if you have a group of friends to play with, even better.
In fact, if you read this and end up giving LoL a go but want someone to play with, I’m always happy to help new players get to grips with the basics of the game. Feel free to add me, my username is ‘therabdab’. See you on Summoner’s Rift!